Engineers and IT Workers Trading Up Despite Tight Job Market
By Kate Hawley
When the economy slumps and the labor market tightens, workers tend to hang onto their jobs, even if a cantankerous boss, a grueling schedule or other factors are making them unhappy.
By several measures, the current job market continues to be tight, with only modest gains evident since the recession. Still, a significant portion of information technology workers and engineers are striking out and applying for new jobs -- even if they are already employed.
That's according to a survey by CareerBuilder.com, conducted from January 2009 through September 2011, of more than 2.7 million job seekers in numerous occupations. The respondents included 45,941 people who applied for IT jobs, and 64,392 who applied for jobs in engineering.
The majority of applicants in these fields were unemployed: 55 percent of IT workers and 59 percent of engineers were out of work and needed simply to find a job. But a large chunk of these applicants already had jobs and were hoping to trade them for something different and (presumably) better. About a third of the applicants -- 30 percent for IT and 27 percent for engineering -- were employed.
A willingness to jump ship indicates a tolerance for risk (i.e., taking the chance that the new job will provide at least the same level of stability as the old one. Or that the new boss will turn out to be less cantankerous than his or her predecessor.) And the inclination to take risks reveals a degree of confidence in the labor market. If the new job doesn't work out, chances appear reasonably good they'll find another.
Based on the survey, IT workers and engineers have about the same risk tolerance as job seekers generally. Of the 2.7 million survey respondents, 58 percent of them were unemployed and 27 percent were employed. (In all categories, the small number of remaining applicants were employed part time or as contractors.)
The survey was conducted as the nation was climbing out of a historic recession. Though the recession officially ended in June 2009, and the economy has grown at a steady rate since then, it isn't growing as fast as some would hope. And employment has proved even tougher to budge. The employment rate is hovering around 9 percent, partly because companies are determined to keep their operations lean in the wake of the downturn.
In this environment, workers in general have been less willing or able to leave their jobs and move on to new opportunities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. For example, in September 2011, the number of "quits" (the term used to tally the number of times workers voluntarily left jobs) reached 2 million, up from 1.5 million in January 2010, the most recent low. But that's still a ways off from the 2.8 million quits recorded in December 2007, just before the recession began.
In professional and business services, the sector that includes many IT and engineering occupations, the quits rate was highest, trending upward over the late summer to reach 2.5 percent in September.
Copyright 2012 Sologig